Branding Wall is the 12′x10′ exposed concrete surface in the entry hall at SWA’s San Francisco office. The concept is to change the installation several times a year, not only to promote the office but also to encourage employees to use their talents on a non work-related project. My idea was to create a continuing… Read more »
I was fortunate to grow up in a house with a large backyard slightly north of Seattle. Above all, in this Pacific Northwest paradise of seasons and ample rain, my parents prioritized making time for their beautiful and prolific vegetable garden, and it remains one of the clearest memories of my childhood (in addition to… Read more »
I was fortunate to grow up in a house with a large backyard slightly north of Seattle. Above all, in this Pacific Northwest paradise of seasons and ample rain, my parents prioritized making time for their beautiful and prolific vegetable garden, and it remains one of the clearest memories of my childhood (in addition to treasure maps, tree houses, backyard baseball, and swimming lessons).
My sister and I shared an extensive chores list that included chicken feeding, setting beer traps for the abundant slugs that frequented the spinach and strawberries, pruning trees, eradicating invasive dandelions that terrorized the lawn, harvesting strawberries, raspberries, lettuce, and snap peas, planting seeds and starts, and helping spread compost and bark dust in and between the beds.
When I was 12, we moved to a house with an even larger backyard about two miles away and the first thing the developer that bought our old place did was build a huge house in the backyard—my first personally jarring experience with densification (and emotional vs. commercial property value). In my travels since then, I have seen and experienced density at its greatest (Jaipur, Tokyo, Mexico City!) and alternately seen and felt the impact of space being cheaper than anything else (Walla Walla, Eugene). And throughout, I have felt most comfortable and happy in those places where I can find my own patches of green space, and have gravitated toward that amenity when securing living arrangements.
San Francisco is the densest city I have called home. The only saving grace of my first place in the vast expanse of concrete that made up SOMA (at the time) was the lush Howard Langton Garden, which requires a key to access in order to discourage vandals and other interlopers. With the average San Franciscan’s interest bordering on obsession with farmers markets, farm-to-table, local food, and urban agriculture, it’s no surprise that San Francisco has a vast network of well-loved community gardens, the only downside being, of course, the extensive waiting lists one faces when signing up for a plot, and the lack of space to accommodate this popular desire.
As the Marketing Coordinator for SWA’s Sausalito office, I’m in a unique position to keep a metaphorical finger on the pulse of the city and region; I spend portions of each week researching and pursuing partnerships and collaborations in response to RFPs and Qs from various public and private agencies. An emerging trend in both sectors is a call for greater open and green space, and increasing emphasis on community gardens/edible landscapes and sustainable infrastructure. In a city increasingly constrained by space, like San Francisco, this presents a challenge. Enter NOMADGardens, an organization I stumbled across a few months ago, and have become increasingly impressed with as I involve myself with their work and learn more about their vision.
NOMADGardens is a roaming community garden operation that just launched a pilot project in the Mission Bay neighborhood, an area severely lacking in green space. NOMAD’s model is simple and brilliant: they find an empty lot in a neighborhood lacking garden space, fill it with portable plots of dirt, and invite the community in to invest and grow plots in the garden. Strategically designed as a hub for the community (a potential venue for movie screenings, art shows, workshops, picnics/barbecues, etc.), the site offers significant social value beyond the edible landscape, where an otherwise vacant lot would uselessly sit. When the property owner/developer of the lot is ready to build, the NOMAD team will help the raised beds “roam” to another vacant, available lot within the neighborhood.
Stephanie Goodson, NOMADgardens founder, was trained in architecture and urban design. After moving to Mission Bay, she realized that her neighborhood lacked a “third space” (apart from home and work) in which one could connect with others outdoors. Stephanie lacked access to a garden space, and she had the ability, interest, and wherewithal to do something about it. After reaching out to a local developer with the idea to install a community garden on his vacant lot, her inquiry was initially met with resistance. From a developer’s perspective, people put considerable sweat equity into gardens and become attached to the site. Not surprisingly, this results in becoming the “bad guy” (or girl, or company) when you want to develop the lot, and negatively impacts both the community and any future project. Responding to this challenge, Stephanie proposed a garden that roamed from vacant lot to vacant lot, and in 2010 the NOMADGardens idea was born.
It was not an easy path. It took over four years for Stephanie to realize her vision, and there is still much work to be done. First, she cultivated a relationship with the City of San Francisco’s Redevelopment Agency (now OCII) in order gain permission for her proposed land use of the site. Then she convinced the developer, Mission Bay Development Group, to gift the land for an initial two-year pilot project. The land lease NOMAD holds with the developer is conditional on their agreement with OCII. Finally, basic site improvements to prepare for NOMAD’s tenure there were donated by the Mission Bay Community Services Organization. In order to achieve all of this, Stephanie talked to neighbors and was able to demonstrate that vacant lots deterred people from walking around in the evenings. Her argument was that by creating a community hub, developers could reclaim the land easily, the community would feel safer, and, most importantly (at least to her), individuals would have a place to grow their own food and connect. In 2013 Stephanie met Anne Park, now co-director of NOMADGardens, who had recently moved to the Bay Area. Anne also craved a piece of land to grow her own food, shared the vision of developing roaming gardens, and had the business acumen to help launch the effort.
Fast-forward to April of 2014 and you would have found me spending an 80-degree Saturday volunteering to drill drainage holes in the bases of metal stand-up washboard tubs, shoveling donated soil and fertilizer from piles to the tubs, and MacGyvering an ailing, donated wheelbarrow back into productivity—all in preparation for NOMAD’s April 12 launch party. While volunteering, I met PhD students from UCSF, inhabitants of a SOMA micro-apartment development happy to be outside getting their hands dirty, residents of a nearby luxury housing tower, members of local garden-focused nonprofits, and random neighbors passing through with a few spare moments to pick up a shovel and dig in.
This June the garden officially opened, offering an initial 88 2’x4’ plots (of a projected 300) available for growing one’s own food, 62 of which are already spoken for. The plots will eventually include drip irrigation, which is more efficient than watering by hand. Plots are offered for slightly more than a nominal fee on a monthly or annual basis. Regardless of what you think of the changing landscape of the city, and the impacts of community investment, it has been refreshing to see a young organization approaching a community problem with enthusiasm instead of sarcasm, or yet another app. I fully believe the concept will take off, and hope it comes to my neighborhood someday soon. Until then, I’ll frequent the spots of green and keep fighting for these kinds of landscapes to survive in the urban context, because they are important for our physical, mental, and social health, and because they offer ties to my childhood, which continually threatens to escape me.
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We’d like to introduce Barrett Doherty from the University of Pennsylvania, recipient of The Cultural Landscape Foundation Fellowship. He’s just completing his fourth week in Dallas and will be moving on to the Houston office to finish the second half of his work. SWA: Thanks for taking a few minutes to have a discussion with… Read more »
We’d like to introduce Barrett Doherty from the University of Pennsylvania, recipient of The Cultural Landscape Foundation Fellowship. He’s just completing his fourth week in Dallas and will be moving on to the Houston office to finish the second half of his work.
SWA: Thanks for taking a few minutes to have a discussion with us. Please give us a brief introduction to The Cultural Landscape Foundation Fellowship program and its purpose.
Barrett: A major focus of the Cultural Foundation’s mission is the “What’s Out There?” database. It attempts to spotlight and encourage people to utilize and enjoy some of the significant landscapes that exist around them. The goal is to publicize these landscapes on a number of levels, be it for researchers, scholars, or the public. It is also meant as a visual database for designers.
SWA: What goals do you have for the Fellowship that may not be related to the TCLF objectives?
Barrett: One of my personal projects over the last few years has been promoting U.S.-based work on Landezine.com. The world map on that site shows a tremendous concentration of projects in Europe and not many in the United States. I got really tired of looking at a map that was essentially stating that all of the quality work is in Europe when we all know that’s not true. So, one of my projects has been to contact designers of landscapes that I feel represent the best of US design and encourage them to submit to Landezine.com. Often times, this has led me to volunteer my photographic talents to ensure high-quality images. The U.S. is extremely underrepresented and I have been pushing representative projects, mostly in Philadelphia and New York, which is where I was based during graduate school. So, the Fellowship actually dovetails with my intentions of getting a greater number of contemporary projects submitted to Landezine.
SWA: Of the TCLF-required project visitations, which did you enjoy the most?
Barrett: North Park Center. It really asks some interesting questions: Is a commercial retail experience a public landscape? Are malls a new frontier in landscape architecture that have not been fully developed? Does landscape architecture end at the wall? Essentially architects tend to think of form and structure but in landscape you are invoking nature. When you look at the plantings, they are highly architectural, they almost become postmodern. They are art pieces, highly structural and organic shapes that become strong through the power of repetition. The concept of public art in the landscape and how it creates focal points is very present in North Park Center. It was originally an “L” shape building and at some point they turned it into a square with an interior courtyard. The courtyard and design by MESA are the centerpiece of the interior of the mall. There is a moment where a particular fountain was removed from Lawrence Halprin’s original design and the distinctive base was used as a planter by Mesa for their intervention. It has become a palimpsest of layering of the design. I tend to look at these developments from a more contemporary angle. Landscape has really come into its own over the last thirty-five years and it has almost eclipsed architecture as the pre-eminent field of the urban. It is no longer subservient to architecture. There has been a fundamental shift in the power dynamics and the power of our field.
SWA: During your time in Dallas, what has been your favorite built landscape architectural work?
Barrett: Well, one is Fountain Place because I’m highly interested in the experience of landscape. I try to show this in my photography and I often have people in my pictures so you can understand how a space is used. You step into the space, which is much cooler than the street, and within five steps you forget you are in the city. You see the Bald Cypress canopy, with a feathery and delicate texture, which really creates an ethereal space. The Texas sun is pretty relentless and all of the sudden you step across this threshold and you are enveloped in this blue, green, and cool space. The I.M. Pei building almost disappears. In my opinion the building makes the space feel bigger. It’s interesting because you walk in there and the building wall almost becomes inversed. Normally the wall is the limit, physically and visually; somehow Dan Kiley inverted it. That really is an amazing feat. Also the fact that it is a mature landscape is very interesting. When you think about it, most of us will rarely see contemporary landscapes mature. Landscapes require time and maintenance. That is a big issue; many landscapes are not maintained and do not get mature to completely express the designer’s full intention.
The other is Klyde Warren Park. My friend is the executive director of the Dallas Arts District. So through her, I have met a number of people, not designers, who are very civic-minded. Speaking with them I get a different perspective on my fellowship. They look at a park differently and I hear what they think is important. They look at it much more experientially. Klyde Warren Park has regenerated Downtown Dallas. My friend would argue that it is merely a crowning jewel in a succession of events, but for most people it is the achievement and all of a sudden downtown Dallas is activated. I hear they are getting 30,000 visitors a weekend. To me this is really interesting because people look at it and think it is great. It is nice to hear other people notice the power of landscape to transform. Woodall Rogers had ripped apart downtown Dallas and now you can go from one side to the other. It eliminated this psychological barrier and speaks to me about the power of landscape architecture. Unlike buildings, parks survive because of their own merits. Klyde Warren, like the Katy Trail, is beloved; it’s been adopted by the city. There is no question how Dallasites feel about these projects. No one would dare take them away from them and that’s great.
SWA: You have a very interesting resume. How did you make the transition from the Navy, to professional photographer to landscape architecture?
Barrett: This is something I’ve grappled with– how do the dots connect? I was originally posted to an aircraft carrier in Japan. So all of a sudden, having never traveled outside of the country, I was fully immersed in the both the foreign culture of the Navy and Japan. One day, steaming South of Guam, while on watch, I see two volcanoes in the distance and a gigantic pod of dolphins approaching off the port side and pulling across the bow of the ship. It was a special moment. I am thinking: I have to share this– how do I do it? Being in Japan further piqued my interest, so I picked up a camera. Japan was so different on a fundamental level and in an urban sense, so I started to document it, hoping that my experiences could be shared. Photography became a tool to express myself and I just kept going. I moved to New York to learn studio photography and worked for eight years professionally shooting commercial photography for food, architecture, fashion, interiors, and exteriors. So after immersing myself in photography in NYC, I realized that I’m really interested in natural light and the outside. A confluence of these interests crystallized when I first saw the soon-to-be High Line from above while working in a studio building on the west side of Manhattan. This was before the redevelopment, when Joel Sternfeld, one of my favorite photographers, was documenting it to seed ideas for the High Line Park. In this moment before the design competition, there was this buzz and I became fascinated with it and the potential of what kind of park it could become. So my interest in landscape architecture grew. For me, it really became this idea of creating the landscape image, rather than finding it.
SWA: About your experience as a professional photographer: Do you have a particular focus in your photography of the landscape? How do you see it differently than a typical person?
Barrett: Landscape photography to me is about distilling the essence. I like to see it all and pick out the right details to express. I tend to look for the experience of the place and sometimes the detail. If it’s a detail, it sits within a context of other things. But I tend to like pictures with people in them because that shows the experience. I’ve come to realize that people are an important part of the scene. When shooting for landscape architects, I use people to power the landscape image and as compositional elements. It’s about balance and effectively controlling what is being shown. How do I distill this into its most salient essentials? The bottom line, as a professional, is to create an image that sells the client’s vision. I was taught in New York that you only get three seconds. The viewer will decide if they like your photo in three seconds. That’s your selling time. I want people to think “Wow this is an amazing place, I want to be there.”
SWA: One last burning question: You’ve been attending school in the City of Brotherly Love and now you’re deep in the heart of Texas: BBQ or Cheesesteak?
Barrett: Sushi…Japanese food is truly genius.
For more information on The Cultural Landscape Foundation and Barrett’s fellowship, visit: http://tinyurl.com/lrcdt39
Image courtesy of Barrett Doherty
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The Goyang International Horticulture Expo is an annual event held in the city’s Lake Park, near the western border of Seoul. It draws more than a million people and features 25 National Pavilions, plus 120 companies from 35 countries as well as 180 domestic companies. This year, the first Korean Garden Show was included as… Read more »
The Goyang International Horticulture Expo is an annual event held in the city’s Lake Park, near the western border of Seoul. It draws more than a million people and features 25 National Pavilions, plus 120 companies from 35 countries as well as 180 domestic companies. This year, the first Korean Garden Show was included as part of the Expo. I had the honor to be one of 17 designers selected in an open competition to realize my proposal during a two-week installation process before the opening.
My proposal, “The Nostalgia,” began with the question, “Where is your garden?” The installation provides a tool for participants to reflect on this question and on their own memories. Most contemporary Koreans live in urban areas, and do not have a nicely manicured garden at home. Rather, we have small plants in pots that are close to our everyday chores. Think of your mother washing dishes, looking at her sweet flowers sitting in a little pot near your sink. Our gardens mingle with the everyday—common and humble, yet deeply personal and unique.
By choosing and amplifying an “old washing place” from Korean vernacular domestic scenes, this project highlights hidden aspects of the garden in everyday city life. This stimulates nostalgia for a common feeling of “home” that transcends generations and ethnicity.
Through this common, yet largely hidden, scene an overarching design idea was introduced to amplify our senses of simplicity, love, and delicacy. By twisting 42 identical canvases with a gradually changing rotational gradient, this project alternately reveals and conceals the space, creating interplay between collective memory and personal sentiment.
Each 600-by-2000-millimeter-long canvas was fastened at its bottom by wire with the same orientation and then warped by the rotatable wood hanger at the top with an individualistic directional gesture. This provided visitors with various views through the space, and created a wide range of visibility depending on a viewer’s location. In addition, as each canvas was spaced 1,100 millimeters apart on center and repeated in a polar array, visitors had to enter this space individually; as they moved through the installation, they caught glimpses of their friends and partners who experienced the installation with them. The simply constructed forms created by visual diffusion evoked a romantic curiosity into the sacred space of the everyday.
“The Nostalgia” consisted of three major components: at the top, a wooden structure; in the middle, 42 traditional fabric swatches rotated on pre-fabricated hangers; at the base, crushed stone with old wash basins, washboards, river rocks, and flowering plant species.
The construction of my garden was successfully completed by three passionate guys in six days. Because the competition awards were financially insufficient, we raised additional funds and donations for my vision to be realized. Preparing the installation remotely before going to Korea for construction was also difficult. Drawing details for pre-fabrication, placing orders for all construction materials, and scheduling delivery and equipment rental from San Francisco required much more effort than I expected. I want to share my appreciation again to all who supported this show. “The Nostalgia” became doubly successful thanks to you. So, here is my six-minute thank-you video clip. It includes a walk-through, the design idea, a design/built comparison, construction photos, and visitors’ interviews. Thank you.
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The methods used to illustrate our ideas about landscape consist of marks and data that create a network of information that informs us and others about designed works. These methods are premised on a system that displays a final product, one that is polished but also stagnant and unable to be compromised. By contrast, much… Read more »
The methods used to illustrate our ideas about landscape consist of marks and data that create a network of information that informs us and others about designed works. These methods are premised on a system that displays a final product, one that is polished but also stagnant and unable to be compromised. By contrast, much of the development processes of an actual landscape (i.e., growth, seasonality, singularity, and decay) are not at all prevalent in the visual language that represents the field of landscape architecture.
The introduction of new methods of constructing drawings digitally as well as digitizing analog documents is an exploration that much of the field of landscape architecture is not utilizing let alone exploiting. Landscape documentation has not been fully explored and the complexity that a site already contains or may contain in the future is left unconsidered, without a thought or debate. Layers of time, amorphousness, and potential are each exploratory paths that cannot be documented through built form, but are important aspects of a project that need to be developed and represented.
A representative drawing, one that depicts a single idea, is the predominant form of our visual communication. The integration of a designer’s process and individuality (personal signature) is a missing component that could add fascinating information and personalization into constructed illustrations. The documentation of such processes allows for a project to record ideas that are becoming instead of being, ones that could reveal many facets of an intricate idea. The absence of process in our drawing methods not only dismisses that opportunity but creates a distance between designers and people external to the discipline and further separates the potential for collaboration to strengthen built forms and systems. A construct drawing, on the other hand, one that is built from many forms of media, contains pieces that allow viewers to glimpse the people who built them. The result is much more interesting work that could explain the considerations informing the placement of objects within a landscape system and what influences other forms of design have upon the creation of a space.
These forms of drawing are by no means new and have been practiced for decades using found images, different tools for making marks, and media surfaces. A shift in personal values that places emphasis on the creation and documentation of individual process is what’s required now for the prevalence and use of such drawings. As technologies and various forms of media multiply, the limitations of traditional drawing methods will become obsolete, as will the inability to convey the necessary complexity of landscape systems and the processes used to complete a design. It’s time to start exploring methods used to create and convey ideas that will not presuppose an exclusive relationship between our documented work and our thought processes.
This drawing by Perry Kulper, an architect and associate professor of architecture at the University of Michigan, was created in response to the Central California History Museum competition. Kulper’s new book, Pamphlet Architecture 34: Fathoming the Unfathomable, with Nat Chard, is available through Princeton Architectural Press.
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A recent study by Americans for the Arts reported that each year the government provides four billion dollars to nonprofit arts organizations. In return, the arts industry generates nearly 30 billion dollars in revenue. Undoubtedly, cities are recognizing that public art is a driving force in the economy. Although it’s difficult to isolate the monetary… Read more »
A recent study by Americans for the Arts reported that each year the government provides four billion dollars to nonprofit arts organizations. In return, the arts industry generates nearly 30 billion dollars in revenue. Undoubtedly, cities are recognizing that public art is a driving force in the economy. Although it’s difficult to isolate the monetary impacts of public art, the social and cultural effects are invaluable. Public art enhances and often creates the identity of public spaces. It transforms cities as well as the way people recognize and contemplate the world around them. It has become an essential tool for making cities stand out and attract new businesses and young professionals. The SWA Fellowship study focused on New York, Philadelphia, and Seattle, all of which have “percent for art” programs.” The resulting book, Art for Public Spaces, is intended to be a working tool for designers, with information regarding the process for commissioning art for both private and public entities. Our desire is to create more awareness of project typologies, artists, and cultural organizations to help streamline the inclusion process and minimize individual research time.
Watch a YouTube video about this Fellowship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5NRsJZ6kvU